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Gay Faulkner - Uncovering a Homosexual Presence in Yoknapatawpha and Beyond

Gay Faulkner

Uncovering a Homosexual Presence in Yoknapatawpha and Beyond

By Phillip Gordon
Hardcover : 9781496825971, 298 pages, December 2019
Paperback : 9781496825988, 298 pages, December 2019

The definitive study on the celebrated writer’s often-ignored ties to LGBTQ literature and culture


The life and works of William Faulkner have generated numerous biographical studies exploring how Faulkner understood southern history, race, his relationship to art, and his place in the canons of American and world literature. However, some details on Faulkner’s life collected by his early biographers never made it into published form or, when they did, appeared in marginalized stories and cryptic references. The biographical record of William Faulkner’s life has yet to come to terms with the life-long friendships he maintained with gay men, the extent to which he immersed himself into gay communities in Greenwich Village and New Orleans, and how profoundly this part of his life influenced his “apocryphal” creation of Yoknapatawpha County.

Gay Faulkner: Uncovering a Homosexual Presence in Yoknapatawpha and Beyond explores the intimate friendships Faulkner maintained with gay men, among them Ben Wasson, William Spratling, and Hubert Creekmore, and places his fiction into established canons of LGBTQ literature, including World War I literature and representations of homosexuality from the Cold War. The book offers a full consideration of his relationship to gay history and identity in the twentieth century, giving rise to a new understanding of this most important of American authors.


"Anything that wasn’t a legally certified relationship, no matter how clear it might be in letters and interviews, doesn’t make it into the official narrative. Pip Gordon’s new book Gay Faulkner is a great approach to understanding a writer’s life and work in terms of their relationship with queer people and ideas. "

- Jenn Shapland, author of My Autobiography of Carson McCullers,

"Gordon seeks to reveal a gay presence not only in Faulkner’s work, but also in his life as well, establishing Faulkner’s awareness of homosexuality and homosexuals, and his acceptance and participation in gay culture. While Gay Faulkner is a solid academic work, the notes are as absorbing as the text, and the bibliography constitutes a summation of Queer Faulkner studies. Gordon offers insight, information, and even entertainment for the general reader. "

- Jesse Yancy, The Clarion-Ledger / Hattiesburg American Mississippi Books Page

"Phillip Gordon’s Gay Faulkner: Uncovering a Homosexual Prescence in Yoknapatawpha and Beyond is a well-organized and soundly researched biographical study of William Faulkner. "

- Jacob B. Kelly, Mississippi Quarterly 72.2 (2019)

"This treatment of Faulkner is altogether fascinating and relevant. It not only demonstrates a close reading of Faulkner’s texts and biography but also places Faulkner’s views of sexuality within the context of the cultural history of changing views of homosexuality (and heterosexuality) from the late nineteenth century to the middle of the twentieth century. Moreover, it avoids overstating the arguments in favor of any given premise, recognizing that any evaluation of Faulkner must ultimately accept the ambiguities and uncertainties that reside in both his life and his texts."

- Robert W. Hamblin, emeritus professor of English and founding director of the Center for Faulkner Studies at Southeast Missouri State University

"By setting aside the wrongheaded and unproductive was he / wasn’t he debate and asking instead, Is there a gay Faulkner?, Phillip Gordon has opened up a rich and extensive new domain for Faulkner scholarship. Gay Faulkner tracks what Gordon calls 'the primal presence of gay desire' across Faulkner’s literary work and self-fashioning, not only during the author’s first, formative decade as a published writer—a decade Gordon gives us a new way to periodize—but also, more surprisingly, during the fifties as well, when Faulkner seems to have learned from an emerging generation of gay writers, some of them from his home state of Mississippi, that unalienated gay male desire was not an impossibility in the South."

- Jay Watson, Howry Professor of Faulkner Studies and professor of English at University of Mississippi

"A robust scholarly work, Gay Faulkner is well researched with engaging notes and an extensive bibliography that includes a wealth of resources for further exploration. While Gordon dives deep into queer theory, he maintains a conversational tone, welcoming readers from a variety of backgrounds and experiences. Gay Faulkner provides an educational and entertaining ride into the past, as readers discover overlooked details of Faulkner’s private life and how they may have influenced some of his famous works."

- Hali Black, Mississippi Libraries